Houthi missile salvo at Saudi cities heightens tensions

Riyadh: A missile attack this week on Riyadh has raised the risk of an escalation in the Yemen war in a region riven with interwoven conflicts, but a direct confrontation between arch-foes Saudi Arabia and Iran still appears unlikely.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now touring the United States, must balance animosity towards Iran with the need for stability as he pitches the kingdom’s economic transformation plan to foreign investors and drums up support for containing Iran’s regional influence.
However, Iranian authorities – facing the prospect of a more hawkish U.S. administration with Donald Trump’s appointments last week of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo as national security adviser and secretary of state – might crank up pressure in the Yemen war as a form of deterrence, diplomats and analysts say.
Saudi Arabia sharpened its rhetoric against Tehran after Saudi forces shot down a flurry of missiles launched by the Iran-aligned Houthis on Saudi cities late on Sunday. One of the missiles caused the war’s first casualties in the Saudi capital Riyadh when falling debris struck a home and killed an Egyptian man and injured two others.
Saudi King Salman, in comments carried by state media, pledged on Tuesday to “firmly and decisively thwart any hostile attempts” targeting the kingdom’s security and stability.
A day earlier, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi movement accused it of using Iranian-made missiles and said that Saudi Arabia reserved the right to respond to Iran when and how it deemed appropriate.
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 in a campaign to restore its internationally recognised government after it was driven into exile by Houthi forces.
“Iran is the appendicitis in the body of the world and should fix itself or else the world will fix the Iranian situation,” spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said.